COLLEGE PARK, Md. — A lot could have happened after the Maryland Terrapins women’s basketball team stepped off the court on March 21 after being upset by the Washington Huskies in the second round of the NCAA tournament.
The Terps could have harped on the loss, one that may have been especially painful following a Final Four appearance in the 2014-2015 season.
They could have harbored a sense of jealousy as they watched their male counterparts cruise to the Sweet 16.
They could have lamented the departure of their four seniors, Malina Howard, Chloe Pavlech, Tierney Pfirman and Big Ten Sixth Player of the Year Brene Moseley.
But Maryland, who beat the Bluefield State Big Blues 146-17 in its first exhibition game of the season Wednesday night, chose to go in a different direction.
“We’re really excited,” senior Shatori Walker-Kimbrough said of opening the new season. “I think you’ve seen that today with just our enthusiasm, the way we were playing defensively.”
Head coach Brenda Frese and the Terps opened the offseason by landing the country’s No. 1 recruiting class, comprised of Kaila Charles, Sarah Myers, Destiny Slocum, Jenna Staiti, Blair Watson and Stephanie Jones, the younger sister of current Terp Brionna Jones.
The team also welcomed the talents of redshirt junior Ieshia Small, who, after sitting out last season following a transfer from Baylor, is eligible to participate this season.
With the roster in place, the new-look Terps wasted no time getting to know each other. In early August, the team spent eight days and played two exhibition games in Italy, giving the group an opportunity to gel both on and off the court.
“I think [Italy] was really critical for us because having seven new people, it’s really tough,” Slocum said. “Especially being a freshman, it was tough coming in. The growth here is amazing, and the players here are amazing. Coming into that, Italy really helped us bond and kind of come together.”
Before they hit the hardwood Wednesday, though, the Terps were reminded they were still a young team, if a cohesive one: The pregame video montage, which is typically filled with game highlights, was instead made up of footage of the group at practice or in the weight room — so far, that’s all the video team has had to work with.
The Terps looked to make some new highlights within the first few minutes of play, and the chemistry gained by the overseas trip quickly became a notable factor.
Within 15 seconds of the tip, Slocum, who filled the starting point guard slot left open by Pavlech, found the elder Jones inside for the Terps’ first points of the game.
Maryland then jumped out to a 27-3 run and didn’t allow another Big Blue bucket until late in the first quarter.
Slocum had three assists in the quarter, and other freshmen showed promise, too: Watson had eight points in five minutes, and Staiti recorded four rebounds in three, all in the first frame alone. By the half, the Terps held a 74-17 lead, capped by a Staiti layup at the buzzer.
“I thought tonight was a really good tune-up for us,” head coach Brenda Frese said. “Loved our energy and enthusiasm.”
Maryland continued to dominate in the second half. Walker-Kimbrough chipped in with seven points and five rebounds in the quarter and Small came alive for eight points in the period.
In the fourth quarter, the Terps broke open the lead to more than 100. Watson, who proved herself as a three-point threat, finished with 29 points to lead all scorers.
“I was really excited to watch Blair,” Frese said. “She just played free. Shooting the three for her is like shooting a layup.”
Needless to say, the Terps have turned the page on last season and started fresh. As the season progresses, only time will reveal how the new identity the team creates for itself will take shape.